The brand indulges in similar identity politics to its competitor (and current frontrunner) Café Bustelo. The label is printed in both English and Spanish and proudly proclaims "Café Para El Gusto Latino: NUESTRO CAFE," or "Coffee for the Latin taste. OUR COFFEE." In the Bronx (the New York City borough this writer is proud to call home) Dominicans and Puerto Ricans take a lot of pride in their coffee, so we can see why Café Caribe is taking such a direct marketing approach.
Beyond that, Café Caribe is also among the cheapest coffees in the store. At $2.59, it's a dollar less than Bustelo and about one third of the price of Medaglia D'Oro.
The biggest draw, though, was the can. With bright colors, cartoonish writing and a cute little drawing of a hacienda amid palm trees, it is incredibly cheering. Over the last few weeks we've had a lot of gray days and the explosive yellow can has provided a lingering gleam of sunshine.
Unfortunately the can's contents were a serious disappointment. It's not that Caribe is a bad coffee. It is head and shoulders above Medaglio D'Oro, producing a rich, robust cup that requires minimal steeping time. Its downfall is its very stale scent: Freshly brewed it smells like old coffee that has been sitting around for hours. Beyond that it has a slight minty accent that defies identification but is vaguely reminiscent of the dentist's office. In short, the coffee is decent ... but not great.
That having been said, the cheery can has earned a spot on our bookshelf, where it will boost spirits on rainy days and remind us of what might have been. Got a favorite bad coffee or a well-designed container lurking in your pantry?